Last year's Asus Zenbook UX31E Ultrabook got top honors with reviewers and shoppers alike. It was a sleek, sexy metal notebook with higher than average resolution and strong performance. It was also one of the first Ultrabooks to hit the market, and that gave it an obvious advantage. Since then many competitors have released Ultrabooks that addressed some of the Zenbook's shortcomings. Asus is an aggressive company that listens to customers and they've not only improved on our complaints, but added a killer feature: a 1080p IPS display.
The Zenbook Prime UX31A is a 13.3" Ultrabook running on third generation Intel Ivy Bridge ULV CPUs. Asus offers it with 1.7GHz Core i5 and 1.9GHz i7 dual core CPUs, Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4 gigs of RAM soldered to the motherboard and 128 or 256 gig SSDs. We take a look at the Core i5 with the 128 gig SSD for this review, which scored an impressive 12,700 on PCMark Vantage. All Prime models have a 1080p IPS display, SSD and backlit keyboard. Yes, even the Zenbook Prime UX21A 11.6" model has a 1080p display!
The 2.86 pound UX31A Zenbook Prime looks much like the first gen Zenbook, and that's a good thing since that machine was stunning looking and well made. The casing is metal and rigid. The combo of a dark swirl lid and a brushed stainless steel hinge barrel and bottom look great. The laptop looks and feels like a high quality piece of tech that holds its own against the MacBook Air. Like the Air, it tapers and is 3mm thin at the front and 9mm at the rear.
The Zenbook Prime has two USB 3.0 ports (one charging), micro HDMI, mini VGA, 3.5mm audio and an SD card slot. Like the last Zenbook, Asus includes a USB Ethernet adapter and VGA adapter in the box and a brown ballistic nylon slip case.
Asus has greatly improved the keyboard with much better tactile feel and key travel. It's backlit and you can control backlight level via Fn keys or let the ambient light sensor handle it for you. I honestly came to hate the original Zenbook keyboard, but so far find the Zenbook Prime's keyboard to be enjoyable. The trackpad is improved as well, with more reliable tracking and multi-touch behavior, but palm rejection is weak.
The Zenbook Prime impresses before you open the lid thanks to the elegant industrial design and sturdy feel. Open it up and the 1920 x 1080 IPS display seals the deal. The matte panel is simply gorgeous: very bright, lovely balanced colors and high contrast. Text is sharp and black levels are excellent. Asus didn't skimp here. The 350 nit brightness panel is brighter than most notebooks on the market (disable the ambient light sensor if you really want to blast your retinas). The display will likely set the Zenbook Prime ahead of the competition for some time.
The Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A starts at $1,099 for the Core i5 with 128 gig SSD.
Heres's our in-depth Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A video review.